Examining the ways social media changed consumer behavior
Consumer behaviors are constantly changing and evolving. However, recent changes brought on by the internet and social media, coupled with the past four years’ events, have significantly altered consumer thinking and behavior. With increasing remote work and social distancing measures, consumers relied heavily on social media to interact, engage, and transact.
Gone are the days when consumers go into stores to discover new products. Nowadays, consumers can scroll through their social feeds for inspiration, survey unfettered responses from strangers, and make buying decisions. How consumers make their buying decisions is now impacted by one of four things: their minds, heart, gut, and people’s opinions.
Although social factors have always played a role in consumer buying habits, the ubiquity of smartphones and social networks has taken word-of-mouth to the next level. According to a recent Forbes report, roughly 81% of consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by their friends’ social media posts. The same report added consumers are 71% more likely to purchase based on social media referrals.
As the world ventures into a new era of consumer behavior, enterprises find that keeping up with these constantly changing preferences is essential in standing out in their respective sectors. However, this rapid change has caused most businesses to adjust to shifting demands and interpret changing consumer behaviors. A Business Wire report reveals 60% of business leaders are rethinking their strategies based on consumer behavior, while another 70% are concerned about a potential recession.
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What is consumer behavior, and why is it important?
Consumer behavior encompasses physical and mental activities that customers engage in when looking for, assessing, buying, and using products and services. By understanding consumer behavior, businesses can personalize their marketing efforts to target specific groups, enhance brand loyalty, and identify emerging trends. This is especially critical in today’s cutthroat market, wherein the race to fill the gap and pinpoint the needed and obsolete products can make or break a company’s success.
The factors influencing consumer behavior are wide-ranging but often include personal, psychological, and social dynamics. While brands can influence this behavior, they can only do so with what they can control. Some of the leading consumer behaviors in today’s economic climate include the following.
Complex buying behavior
This occurs when consumers are buying high-end but infrequently bought products. Customers often conduct extensive research before committing to a product and are highly involved in the buying process in this scenario.
Dissonance-reducing buying behavior
The consumer is hugely involved in buying but needs help identifying the differences between brands. This occurs when the consumer worries they will regret their choice.
Habitual buying behavior
Habitual buying behaviors happen when consumers have little involvement in the product or brand category. A good example is grocery shopping, wherein you go to the store and purchase your desired bread type. While this exhibits a habitual pattern, it does not necessarily show strong brand loyalty.
This happens when a consumer buys a different product, not because they are unsatisfied with the previous one but because they are looking for variety.
Understanding the different customer behaviors will give you a better idea of segmenting customer types. As a marketer, you must put your biases aside and view things through a customer’s lens. Although you have a targeted customer demographic, there are still variations between individual customers.
This is especially true in social media, wherein your consumers differ in race, culture, and background. When you know the differentiation of each consumer group, you can tailor your strategies based on their needs and expand the width and breadth of your services to serve a broader group effectively.
Moreover, understanding consumer behavior lets you predict industry trends and save resources that might otherwise be allocated to produce a product that will not be sold in the market. For instance, in winter, a clothing brand will not waste its resources producing tank tops since it will not yield the same revenue it would during the summer. Considering today’s consumers have meaningful choices and opportunities, knowing and shaping consumer behavior is essential to staying relevant and competitive.
Ways social media changed customer behaviors
While the consumer behavior changes social media brings can be tough to overcome, it does not mean you should waive the white flag. The fascinating thing about consumer behavior is it can be guided. Something you must remember is people will make instant decisions with their subconscious. However, knowing how to guide consumer behaviors is another story that often involves understanding the factors driving this emotional change.
It puts customer experience on center stage
The customer experience (CX) has a hand in running a business. From attracting and retaining customers to building an excellent brand reputation and gaining a competitive edge, CX is essential in helping you succeed in today’s consumer-centered business economy. But where CX plays a vital role is in shaping consumer behavior.
Customers expect more from your business than ever before. Unlike the old days, you are now being compared to the best service they have ever received. Today’s brands prioritize quick and seamless CX in response to exponentially increasing consumer expectations. For a small business owner, this can be flattering and downright terrifying at the same time.
It is more challenging because the pandemic has expedited many preexisting CX trends. Arguably most notable to the CX world is maintaining and cultivating a comprehensive social media presence. With social media revolutionizing customer interaction, forward-thinking leaders can leverage these channels to differentiate their service experience.
Public customer service
Unlike before, customer service today is a public affair. Poor service is no longer resolved privately through email channels and traditional centers but laid bare on social media with all-encompassing reputational consequences and business opportunities. This makes integrating social media with your CX strategy a requirement to guide consumer purchasing decisions effectively.
Doing so empowers businesses to determine thematic and product trends along with influencer opportunities in each category and uncover objective opinions of their brands and competitors while addressing pain points and unmet needs. However, integrating social media with your CX strategy requires more than having an active Facebook page or responding to Twitter and Instagram DMs. Businesses must establish a holistic framework for customer outreach and engagement, concentrating on multiple social networks and choosing the best fit for their customer base.
Regardless of the industry, this often involves four components: social media listening, social media marketing, social media reputation management, and social media engagement. Listening lets you capture customer insights from information publicly shared, which you can subsequently use for social media marketing to enrich campaigns and drive your product’s value propositions. Reputation management and engagement maintain the quality of CX you deliver consistently across social media platforms.
Maintaining high-quality CX lets you reinforce positive new beliefs and shape emerging consumer habits with new offerings. When you can influence consumer behavior, you can shape your future marketing campaigns to target specific segments and develop in-depth customer profiles for each segment. This lets you gain insights into what different types of customers want from your business and build better relationships for increased repeat purchases and revenue.
Personalized marketing becomes more important
Marketing is more than a buzzword in business circles. Through effective marketing, businesses can create brand awareness, drive organizational growth and profit, acquire, and retain customers and enhance engagement. But what makes marketing indispensable is its ability to change and shape customer behaviors. Marketing influences consumer behaviors by eliciting reactions and using imagery and word associations connected to emotional responses.
With the rise of social media, businesses have also changed how they market products to prospects and customers. Although direct marketing strategies are valuable, social media marketing is becoming the most common and compelling direction for influencing customer buying decisions. This is because social media has provided businesses with access to a global market that allows them to expand their reach exponentially.
Moreover, social media has prompted businesses to emphasize personalized marketing with far more consumer data available. Have you ever wondered why most niche organizations lead the businesses of the industry? This is usually because of their compelling and personalized social media marketing strategy. A recent study reveals 80% of customers are more likely to do business with an organization that offers a personalized experience.
While marketers have a significant amount of information, only a few use it as much as they should. Recent data shows roughly 25% of businesses and marketers do not use personalization at all, even though it is what customers react to. Although reasons vary, a significant reason for this lack is the inability of most marketers to use personalized marketing in social media. Personalizing social media marketing empowers businesses to connect with their target audience and create products and services based on customers’ personal and behavioral data.
Tailoring content to different customer journey stages is as crucial as personalizing it for consumer personas. The customer journey comprises the awareness, consideration, and conversion stages. Each stage is unique regarding how familiar social media users are with your brand and how ready they are to purchase. You must create diverse personalized content to align information with the customer journey.
At the awareness stage, customers need to learn your brand better and are only looking for a product that would satisfy their needs. This is where you must grasp users’ attention and make them want to come back. For example, you can create engaging posts that help you establish relationships with your followers. This also keeps your brand at the front of their minds and prompts them to consider buying from you.
Once customers reach the consideration stage, you must reevaluate your social media marketing strategy. This is where you offer helpful content that convinces them you are the right option to address their respective pain points. Since this is where users likely have interacted with your social media content, you can conduct an audience analysis. This lets you shape future purchasing decisions since you can identify the existing behaviors of your social media followers concerning a product or service.
Furthermore, this enables you to create content tailored to specific customer personas. Doing so makes your audience feel valued and understood since you can provide information tailored to their needs and interests. It also lets you determine how the new audience you are pulling in compares to your previously defined buyer personas and create personalized content explaining how your brand can address their pain points.
In the conversion phase, you want to turn your leads into paying customers. While prospects reaching the consideration stage are a shoo-in to purchase, some might need an extra push. This is where highly personalized content becomes more critical since purchases often occur on a website. Using individualized messages such as personalized thank-yous, your followers’ names, and pop-up coupons encourages them to complete their purchases.
However, it is worth noting that personalized social media marketing goes beyond posting relevant content at the right time. It is also initiating meaningful interactions between your brand and your target audience. This means engaging your audience in meaningful conversations such as direct messaging and public comments and ensuring their concerns and pain points are addressed promptly. As you build that relationship, the customer learns to trust your recommendations and will be more likely to turn to you when they have a need you can meet.
Consumers expect two-way engagement with brands
Brands must enter the conversation to reach today’s bricks-and-click consumers. Thanks to social media, a brand is no longer a remote and faceless entity consumers only learn about in Google searches and publications. Businesses can humanize their brands and showcase their unique attributes and personalities by engaging with customers.
However, engaging with customers on social media is more than responding to their comments and messages. It also involves helping customers see why they need your product and how they can get more use from it. For instance, a fragrance store can create posts about how to apply perfume properly or find the different pressure points. Educating your audience about your products instead of directly promoting sales indicates you care more about addressing their pain points than pocketing their hard-earned dollars.
Like everything else, communicating with your audience on social media requires strategic storytelling and relating with your followers. Unfortunately, most organizations do not know the proper “netiquette.”
Although there are endless netiquette rules, one of the most fundamental expectations for organizations is to consciously note the individuals they are speaking to and whether it is appropriate to use a formal or informal tone. You must also avoid typing in “ALL CAPS” and only use emojis when appropriate, as it can make your content hostile. You will learn these netiquette rules from studying for a master in communication online at leading academic institutions such as St. Bonaventure University, which teach you how to use social media and technology to market, analyze, and support customers and businesses alike.
Theory and practice
While working towards your communications degree, you will learn the theoretical and research components of mass interpersonal and organizational communication and examine narrative and social change, political impact, intercultural contexts, and social influence. Depending on your chosen academic institution, you can also customize your degree by picking a specialty such as interpersonal communication, performance studies, culture and public discourse, organizational communication, and digital communication.
For instance, if you specialize in digital communication, you will gain the skills to create a comprehensive online strategy, build a campaign vision, analyze data, and develop high-quality social media content for target audiences. You will also learn to identify your ideal outlets for maximum engagement and reach. The problem with most brands is they are clueless about the mechanics of different social media networks.
What often works for Facebook may not deliver similar results on Twitter. Understanding each platform’s metrics, culture, and trends lets you adjust your social media engagement strategy to accommodate their nuances. For example, LinkedIn could be the ideal fit if you are a B2B organization since it concentrates on professional networking, and many B2B brands are already active on the platform.
Once you’ve determined the social media platforms you will use for communicating with your customers, it makes it easier to get to know your page’s traffic, the type of user you want to reach, your potential customers and main competition, and the components of an engaging post. While every network is different, in-feed social content such as live videos, images, and short clips garner the most engagement, per Sprout Social’s data. Knowing this lets you create sharable content that prompts followers to hit the share button and increases overall engagement.
If that’s not good enough, advanced online communication degree programs will also teach when to post on social media. Identifying what is the best time to post based on your audience and platform will help you know when to prioritize upcoming posts for maximum audience engagement. While you can foster interaction in social media in various ways, knowing how to communicate strategically with your customers online will position your brand to humanize every online experience.
Social media leveled the playing field between brands and buyers. Consumers can learn and engage with brands more quickly and easily, while brands can listen to what matters to their audience. By fostering genuine engagement, brands can stand out, influence customers to choose their products, and shape consumer behavior.